I have spent most of my life completely unaware of myself. I just did things one after another without stopping for a moment to question my own motivations without regard for my own safety and future well being. There were times, events, that changed me, altered my future, my perceptions of the world, that changed the way I believed how life was supposed to work, and until embarrassingly recently these things went unexamined.
I have lived my life without any idea why I was doing anything.
The characters in Antiartists do this; they do things without any understanding of themselves, and even though the book is not about me at all, I realized that I do identify with a lot of the impulses that they feel, a lot of the same disconnection and isolation that they feel, a lot of the understanding that as much as we want to believe that we are masters of our own fates, we are who we are largely because we were made this way by events and relationships and by sick random chance.
One of my readers told me that he couldn't identify with the impulse to self-harm; he had never even heard of such a thing, he was somewhat appalled by the whole idea. For me, having grown up as a punk and an outsider, that impulse is a mostly open secret; kids do this all the time when the world is too heavy and confusing.
Sometime after the birth of my first son, I found myself in a car blasting down dark residential streets with my bare foot sticking out of the open door. The driver of the car was extremely drunk, as was I, neither of us were wearing seatbelts and we were both shouting at each other to shut the fuck up, just shut up. Somehow in the madness I clearly remember getting an image of my sleeping baby son, an image of the speeding car hitting a power pole or a parked car, me losing my foot, losing my life, losing everything for nothing more than moronic self-indulgent pride, a drunks skewed sense of justice. I brought my foot in the car, shut the door and put on my seatbelt. I couldn't slow the car; that was out of my hands now, I had already made the decision to get in with a drunken asshole much like myself, but I could try to mitigate the potential disaster. I realized even in that absurd and dangerous scene that terrible things could happen, even to me, and I didn't have the luxury of accidental suicide anymore; I had someone at home that was counting on me.
There were times I could have died, and I had no idea why.
Even now I sometimes find myself surprised by my own emotions, when I am accidentally open with a stranger, or even in this very moment, as I write these words, feelings come up unexpectedly and I find myself with eyes wide open staring at the lights with ragged breath trying to guess why I am feeling what I am feeling, why I am who I am...
My book is not about me, but it is about broken people doing broken things, and that is something I understand through and through.
And even though I do not consider myself broken anymore and I am no longer doing broken things, I do remember that image I got in that speeding car of my sleeping baby boy. I try to remember that we are not promised tomorrow, we are not promised another day of this strange and beautiful life. I try to remember that every moment is a gift. I try to remember to examine my life, my motivations, to make decisions, rather than react to impulse.
I try to remember to be grateful.